In her efforts to not only empower Bangladeshi women, but to bring awareness to issues like sustainability, indigenous culture and women’s rights around the globe, Wasfia Nazreen has climbed the highest peaks on all 7 continents across the globe.
In Bangladesh, women in her country face one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the region; more than half of married Bangladeshi women ages 15 to 49 report experiences of physical or sexual violence from their husbands, including dowry-related violence.
In college, Nazreen began to pursue a life devoted to helping women succeed.
She traveled to the borders of India and Tibet, working with women and refugees who used art therapy to cope with trauma. Later, she worked with groups like the international humanitarian aid group CARE, to educate and train women born or wrongfully forced into the sex industry in Bangladesh, and the development organization BRAC, as Goodwill Ambassador.
Due to scarcity of funding, Nazreen, who’d been climbing since 2006, created the Bangladesh on Seven Summits foundation in 2011, an organisation that helped her achieve her goal of climbing each peak.
After receiving media attention for her climbing feats, she launched the Ösel Foundation in 2016, an educational institute set in the outdoors. At the Ösel Foundation, Nazreen will use backpacking, camping, trekking, climbing, and other activities in nature to empower young women to identify the “mountains” in their lives and climb them.
Even as a child, I had this really strong feeling that I needed to set myself free, and that no one else could do it for me.
Having grown up “like an orphan,” she brought this sentiment to climbing, finding strength in the face of those who doubted her skills.
Today, she hopes to impart that strength upon the young women she teaches.
“Wasfia” is an 14-minute documentary, directed by Sean Kusanagi in association with RYOT Films, that celebrates the accomplishments of Nazreen, the activist and mountaineer who uses sports diplomacy to bring awareness to issues like sustainability, indigenous culture and women’s rights around the globe.
She dedicated her treks to the tops of Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa), Denali (North America), Mount Elbrus (Europe), Aconcagua (South America), Carstensz Pyramid (Australasia or Oceania), Vinson (Antarctica) and Mount Everest (Asia) to the women of Bangladesh in particular.
The documentary, currently touring the U.S. and featured exclusively in full above, was shot entirely on an iPhone 6s by Stash Slionski, directed Kusanagi. It follows Nazreen as she explains what drives her to climb another mountain and how she hopes to live as a role model for the people of her young country.
To learn more about Nazreen’s initiative, visit the Ösel Foundation website here.